More Georgia and South Carolina Backroads

As I noted in various updates about delayed posts, I was back in Athens, Georgia this weekend.  On the way over Friday, my GPS routed me a different way than usual, apparently due to a massive wreck on I-20.

The rerouting took me off I-20 at Lexington, South Carolina, taking me through painfully slow traffic in the bustling county seat before spitting me out on US-378 West, which wended its way towards the Upstate.

I then hit US-178 West towards Greenwood and Abbeville, transferring to various State roads.  I eventually ended up on SC-72, heading through Calhoun Falls at the South Carolina-Georgia border.

At that point, SC-72 became GA-72, which took me through Elberton and Comer, Georgia, before depositing me in Athens.

As many of my readers are not from South Carolina—or even from this country!—let me translate that for you:  I went through a lot of small towns in very rural parts of South Carolina and Georgia.

And it was a beautiful drive.  If I weren’t already tied to Lamar (and didn’t already love it so much), I’d consider moving to Calhoun Falls.  It’s very rural, but it sits at a wide point of the Savannah River.  Driving over it felt more like driving over a large lake than it did a broad river.  According to the map, it appears to be a confluence of the Savannah River and two lakes:  Tate Lake and—I think—Lake Secession (gotta love South Carolina, where we have bodies of water named for leaving the Union).

I also saw more of Lexington, South Carolina, than I ever remembered seeing.  Lexington is very close to my hometown of Aiken and to Columbia, where I attended college.  Despite that proximity, I have not been to downtown Lexington very often—if ever!—and seeing it while sitting in traffic on Friday afternoon actually gave me a good sense for at least a portion of its city center.  Lexington—the city and the county—are quite wealthy and densely populated, which turned up in the town’s amenities.  I was particularly intrigued by a Thai restaurant with an ominously large, black door, which looks an awful lot like the gateway to some dungeon or medieval castle.

As for the mostly rural route, one thing that always strikes me is how people live in such extremely rural areas—and especially along federal highways.  Naturally, most people used to live in very rural, isolated pockets, but that’s far from the norm now.  The idea of living so close to a highway, too, has interested me:  would not want to live along one, but many people do.  What is it like?  Do high beams awake residents at night as they shine through through bedroom windows?

As for the sheer rurality, how often do residents get supplies?  I’ve pondered this before, and I realize that most of the towns on this route were no more than twenty or thirty minutes from some county seat or developed area.  Indeed, life in Lamar is a bit like that—we have the basic amenities, but some errands require a twenty- or thirty-minute trip one way to one of the larger neighboring communities.

Besides that, what do people do for a living?  I think the availability of high-speed Internet and more telecommuting will make rural areas more attractive, but what do people who live in these tiny towns do now?  I imagine many of them are engaged in health care and education, the two perennial jobs that are always present in poor, rural areas.  But what of mechanics, machinists, and the like?  There were a few garages near Calhoun Falls that specialized in pontoon boat sales and repairs—understandable given proximity to the water—but what other opportunities exist in such a place?  Are there other opportunities?

Those thoughts aside, it was a lovely drive.  Murphy snoozed in the backseat most of the trip, and I enjoyed an autumnal drive through the Upstate.  The leaves haven’t quite turned yet, but they’re beginning to do so.  Another couple of weeks and I imagine the route will be a golden paradise of falling leaves.

What back roads adventures have you taken recently?  Leave a comment below!

—TPP

11 thoughts on “More Georgia and South Carolina Backroads

  1. Sounds like Calhoun Falls is one of those places you’d retire to, not somewhere you’d settle down in if you’re looking for opportunities or a career. A bit like the fictional town of Perfection in Tremors – not to everyone’s tastes but if you like the beauty of isolation, a good place to kick off your boots and relax.

    As for back road driving, around here you could get lost in the countryside or find your way to the coast. I got lost on one of my first drives a few years ago and ended up around Acle way first and then near the coast at Wells. You could drive around in circles for hours but you’ll find the coast eventually.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. That sounded absolutely delightful Tyler. There are lots of quieter routes here away from the main roads and millions of lanes in the countryside with no sign posts. You need to have a good sense of where youbare heading to navigate them and be aware of oncoming tractors or other vehicles coming from the opposite direction and which can necessitate lots of reversing back into a gateway or a passing space. Not my kind of driving I am afraid. I turned into the lane in Wales that leads to the house of some friends a couple of years ago and after I had gone a couple of hundred yards, nightmare time. Bearing down on me was not one, but THREE tractors. Furkety furk. My palms were sweating, my heart was pounding as I reversed slowly back to the road with three men watching my every move. To my credit I managed not to end up in the hedge but blimey!

    Liked by 4 people

      • It was absolutely nerve wracking. A lot of our lanes are barely one car width across with high banks and hedges and very windy so it can be impossible to see an oncoming vehicle until it is nearly on top of you. There are occasional passing places or gateways to tuck into but even so they only crop up every few hundred yards so having to reverse down a wiggly road with a tractor with enormous tyres and a bemused red faced farmer driving slowly towards you is the stuff of nightmares. There must be a saint to pray to in such situations.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Yikes! Sounds like a harrowing hedgerow experience! Backing up down a winding path for hundreds of yards is one of my nightmares, too. Our backroads here tend to be a bit less, um, picturesque, but up in the mountains we run into those kinds of narrow situations.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hah, I feel for you, Alys, but I also remember the time that I came face to face on a 40-foot road with a 32-row corn picker (set for 30 inch rows, so the header was about twice as wide as the alleged road). Ordinarily, you just back up to the nearest field entrance and get out of the way, backing up a million-dollar machine by the two little side view mirrors is not for the faint hearted. But behind me was another farmer driving a couple hundred head of cattle to a newly picked field to graze. After we consulted for a bit, we worked it out, I borrowed a four wheeler from the cattle drive, and a couple of handie-talkies, and helped back the combine into a field entrance so it worked out, only about 90 minutes lost, and no snoots damaged in this incident.

      Traffic jams in rural America can be quite interesting!

      And overwhelmingly, what people do in rural America is farm or support farming. Even still, but it’s harder to find a blacksmith these days.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Small town America – nothing like it, if only for the quirkiness of most of them. There is a YouTube-r, The Carpetbagger, who has traveled the country and afforded himself the joy of some of the wackiest places on our map – all small towns that hold their heads up high knowing they make their very own contributions to the fabric of the country.

    Liked by 3 people

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